Saturday, May 28, 2011

NSW Steps Towards Dictatorship

NSW Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell is trying to take NSW one step closer to being a dictatorship. He proposes to introduce legislation which will allow a Minister, under his direction, to introduce regulations that will determine the pay and conditions for public servants, including: public service staff; public teachers; nurses; hospital doctors; carers; public transport staff.

The previous State Government introduced legislation (so-called Part3A Planning Laws) that allowed the Planning Minster to introduce ‘regulations’ approving Development Applications above a certain value. The Minster was able to act as Legislature (instead of Parliament), Executive (Minister) and Judiciary. Those ‘regulations’ were used to allow:
  • multiple wind-farms around Crookwell, Lake George and Cullerin, close to people's houses.
  • the development of Barangaroo, which was allowed to bypass City of Sydney planning laws; and environmental clean-up laws.
  • an approved development at Catherine Hill Bay, again contrary to local council planning laws, and contrary to the Minister's own departmental advice. 
  • coal seam gas extraction without reference to other local or state planning, environmental or heritage laws in the Illawarra, Camden, the Hunter Valley. There were/are plans for drills in the Southern Highlands, near Bowral.
Many believe that "Government-by-Regulation" is wrong, including me. They are wrong because they diminish, or even reduce to zero, the Principle of Separation of Powers: that Parliament, Government and the Judiciary are independent. Especially the Judiciary.
The current State Government made much of undoing the Planning Minister’s ability to introduce such regulations, and returning planning powers to Local Councils, saying that such regulatory powers were wrong.

Now, it seems those same regulatory powers are OK! Mr O’Farrell intends to use the same “regulatory powers” again. Not for planning, but for Industrial Relations. Mr O'Farrell proposes legislation that will allow a Minister to be able to regulate the pay and conditions of public servants. That is, the Minister will introduce a regulation that effectively directs one or more judges of IRC to make a particular decision regarding pay and conditions. This removes the judicial independence from industrial court decisions. This “Government-by-Regulation” is exactly how the various contentious wind-farms were allowed, Barangaroo and coal-seam gas developments were allowed.

While there is no direct enshrinement of the Doctrine of Separation of Powers - that Parliament, Government and the Judiciary are independent - in NSW’s Constitution, it is worth publicly noting that there are long-standing conventions regarding the Separation of Powers in NSW. Queensland’s Joh Bjelke-Petersen was found to have no concept of it during the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and the corruption in the government he led, and the Police Force he controlled, is well documented. This proposed Act will weaken the Separation of Powers in NSW because a Minister will the Legislature, the Executive, and will effectively make judgements on behalf of the Judiciary, who will be required to ‘rubber stamp’ them. Again, this means that one person, under the direction of Mr O’Farrell and any future Premier, will effectively be Legislature, Executive and Judiciary!

Mr O’Farrell’s proposed legislation clearly breeches the Principle of Separation of Powers by action and intent, is unethical, weakens our democracy, and leaves open the opportunity for corruption by this, and future governments. It must be vigorously opposed.

“Government-by-Regulation” was wrong for wind-farms and other large developments, not because they are wind-farms, or large developments, but because “Government-by-Regulation” allowed at least some  inappropriate developments, diminished our democracy, and allowed for possible corruption in future. The same is true for Mr O’Farrell’s “Government-by-Regulation” for industrial relations.

The question for every NSW Parliamentarian is: will he/she be guided by good conscience and the interests of the people and of democracy, or will they let Mr O’Farrell take NSW one step closer to Dictatorship?

Contact as many MLA’s and MLC’s as you can. See